Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat and is an essential
nutrients just like the vitamins and minerals, as our body cannot
make them and they play many critical roles, it is essential to
include Omega-3s in our diet.
The Omega-3 (called ALA) found in plant sourced foods such as
canola oil, linseeds and walnuts needs to be converted by the body
to the long chain Omega-3s to be used effectively. Unfortunately
this conversion is very inefficient so it is desirable to include
long chain Omega-3s in the diet as well. These are found in oily
fish, other fish and seafood and to a lesser extent in meats and
eggs. Foods enriched with long chain Omega-3s are beginning to
appear in supermarkets. Supplements of fish oil are rich in long
Long chain Omega-3s are used effectively in the body. DHA is a
major building block of the brain. The retina in the eye is very
concentrated in DHA. Other vital organs such as the heart are rich
in long chain Omega-3s. Both EPA and DHA are transformed to other
active substances in the body which have anti-inflammatory and
protective roles. It is much more difficult to ensure enough long
chain Omega-3s are in the diet as so few foods contain these
essential nutrients. The shorter chain Omega-3, alpha-linolenic
acid or ALA, is very poorly converted in the body to the long
Why are long chain Omega-3s important?
- These are vital nutrients required by every cell in the body
- Omega-3 DHA is a major building block of the cells in the brain and retina so it is crucial for brain growth and visual development
- Long chain Omega-3 DHA is important for the signalling processes in the brain and nervous system
- The long chain Omega-3s DHA and EPA form hormone-like substances which help reduce inflammation, increase flexibility of blood vessels and help blood flow
- The long chain Omega-3s DHA and EPA help reduce the risk of a heart attack
- Scientific research continues to identify important roles for long chain Omega-3s, including the role of DPA another type of long chain Omega-3.
Whilst fruits, vegetables and cereal grains make important
contributions to a healthy diet, they do not supply long chain
To *prevent a deficiency* of long chain Omega-3s health
authorities recommend 90mg/day for women and 160mg/day for men.
However, to *optimise diets for lowering chronic disease risk* a
much higher amount is recommended:
- For women 430mg per day
- For men 610mg per day
For some health conditions (such as arthritis and high blood
triglyceride levels) doctors recommend higher intakes and fish oil
supplements are required.
Most people have very little long chain Omega-3s in their diet
because it is found in so few foods - in fact, most New Zealanders
and Australians consume less than a quarter of the optimal
recommended intake. Those who regularly consume fish and seafood
(at least twice a week) and who choose food varieties enriched
with long chain Omega-3s may reach their target intake. Oily fish
such as Salmon is a high source of natural Omega-3s.
Omega-3 and Children
The latest information based on extensive research by the Omega-3
Centre focusing on children, has shown that Omega-3s found in oily
fish such as salmon are extremely beneficial in a number of ways for
children. This is of particular interest as a range of health problems
among New Zealand children is being partly attributed to diets lacking
oily fish and other foods rich in long chain Omega-3s.
This dietary shortfall in Omega-3 is causing concern for health
experts who recommend that growing children should increase their
intake of Omega-3s by as much as five times their current level. The
evidence supporting the benefits of Omega-3 is strong enough to
suggest healthcare professionals should consider Omega-3s as an
adjunct in the treatment of children with developmental brain
disorders such as ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia. Long-chain Omega-3s
are required by every cell in the body and are essential nutrients for
a number of key health functions with an important role in brain
growth, development, behaviour, learning and bone health.
Mind and Body
As well as being a superb and nourishing food and rich in protein,
vitamins and minerals, Salmon is a natural source of healthy Omega-3s,
of which the known health benefits are many and affect the body, and mind.
Omega-3s have been linked to protection against heart disease by
reducing hypertension 1,2 as well as lowering cholesterol levels.3
It also smoothes blood flow through constricted arteries.4 The
Omega-3s found in salmon lubricate the painful joints of arthritis
sufferers,5 reduce the risk of breast cancer6 and help to prevent
*DHA (one of the long chain Omega-3 polyunsaturates) has been shown to
be important in building a foetus's brain, eyes and nerves during
pregnancy.8 Eating Omega-3 rich fresh salmon* regularly during
pregnancy also substantially reduces the incidence of low birth weight
and premature delivery.9
*Pregnant women should avoid eating pre-cooked seafood products
(unless eaten hot) and uncooked seafoods.1
Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon are essential components of brain
cell membranes, and their role in cell structure is thought to improve
the powers of memory and boost learning power as well as protect the
cells from diseases of ageing such as Alzheimer's and dementia.11
High concentrations of Omega-3s in the brain and nervous system also
enhance mood and may help prevent depression and alleviate the
symptoms of manic depression.12
- "Effects of Dietary Fish and Weight Reduction on Ambulatory Blood
Pressure in Overweight Hypertensives", Danny Q. Bao, Trevor A. Mori,
Valerie Burke, Ian B. Puddey, Lawrence J. Beilin /Hypertension,/ 1998,
- "Fish Consumption and Cardiovascular Disease in the Physician's
Health Study" by Morris, M.C. et al. /American Journal of
Epidemiology,/ 1995, 33-38.
- "Effects of Supplementation with Fish Oil Derived n-3 Fatty Acids
and -linolenic Acid on Circulating Plasma Lipids and Fatty Acid
Profiles in Women", Maggie Laidlaw and Bruce J Holub /American Journal
of Clinical Nutrition, 2003,/ 77 (1): 37-42.
- "Dietary Fish Oil Augments Nitric Oxide production or Release in
Patients with Type Two Diabetes Mellitus", G.E.
McVeigh, /Diabetologica/ 1993, 36:33-38.
- "Effects of Fish Oil Supplementation on Non-steroidal
Anti-inflammatory Drug Requirement in Patients with Mild Rheumatoid
Arthritis and a double blind placebo controlled study", C.S. Lau et
al. /British Journal of Rheumatology/ 1993, 32: 982-989.
- "Dietary Intervention Increases Omega-3/Omega-6 Polyunsaturated
Fatty Acid (PUMA) Ratios in Breast and Gluteal Fat in Women with
Breast Cancer", S. Lee, Capone, D. Bagga and J. Glaspy, /Division of
Hematology/Oncology, UCLA School of Medicine/.
- "Effect of an Enteric-coated Fish-oil Preparation on Relapses in
Crohn's Disease", A. Beluzzi et al. /New England Journal of Medicine,/
- "Essential Fatty Assets", Elizabeth Hiser, /Eating Well/
- "Role of Essential Fatty Acids in the Function of the Developing
Nervous System," Ricardo Uauy, Patricio Peirano, Dennis Hoffman, et
al, /Lipids/, 1996, 31 (Supplement).
- "Low Consumption of Seafood in Early Pregnancy as a Risk Factor
for Preterm Delivery: Prospective Cohort Study", Sjúr ur Fró i Olsen
and Niels Jørgen Secher, /British Medical Journal, /2002, 324:447.
- "Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Pregnant Women - A
Background Paper", Ministry of Health, 1996.
- "Consumption of Fish and n-3 Fatty Acids and Risk of Incident
Alzheimer Disease", Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D. Denis A. Evans, M.D.
Julia L. Bienias, Sc.D. Christine C. Tangney, Ph.D. David A. Bennett,
M.D. Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D. Neelum Aggarwal, M.D. Julie Schneider
M.D. /Archives of Neurology,/ 2003, 60:940-946.
- Dietary Polyunsaturated Fats abd Depression: when cholesterol
does not satisfy", Joseph R. Hibbeln and Norman Salem, Jr., /American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition,/ 1995, 62:1-9.
- "Boost Your Brain Power with Omega-3s," Holly McCord,
R.D. Prevention www.nutritionnews.com